A revised version of this original post was published online as part of Room Magazine's "No Comment" project. You can read it here.
When Donald Trump became president-elect of the United States last week, I honestly thought that my biggest gut-punch as a survivor of sexual assault had been dealt. A proud rapist and abuser was handed the most powerful office in the world. Cool.
I attended the University of British Columbia from 2008-2014. I spent four of those six years in the Creative Writing department. During those six years, I was raped twice. One of those rapes was perpetrated by one of my classmates in the Creative Writing program.
I never came forward. People are often shocked by this (and by "people," I mean mostly cis dudes). They tend to think of rape as this major, violent, SVU thing. Call Olivia Benson! Seek justice! And it is. And the people who do seek justice are the bravest fucking people in the entire world. This "open letter" bullshit is proof.
UBC is a conservative university with a pervasive rape culture. Remember the whole rape chant thing? That was all happening at the same time I was assaulted. There was also a string of random attacks happening on campus. Someone put up posters in the Creative Writing department that said, WOMEN, DON'T WALK ALONE! I took a Sharpie and added, MEN, DON'T RAPE WOMEN! The posters were removed.
I didn't come forward, for the same reasons victims often don't. It's a he-said, she-said situation. Victims of sexual assault are always faced with the burden of proof. If you don't have cuts and bruises and a gob of his DNA in your hair, plus fifteen witnesses, plus zero alcohol in your system, then you're going to face the exhausting and demoralizing task of having to basically beg people to believe you. I wasn't up for it.
I had just graduated and left Vancouver when the Steve Galloway stuff really got underway. I followed the story closely. I watched dramatic Facebook fights between successful authors on my feed. I unfriended rape apologists.
Then this open letter happened. I mean, they literally MADE THEIR OWN WEBSITE for this trash.
Listen, your boy damaged his own reputation. Where's the accountability? I'm not going to sit here and defend the way that UBC handles anything having to do with rape on campus. But don't let's pretend that this is about holding the university responsible for its actions. This letter is an attack on survivors of sexual assault, plain and simple. It's shameful and embarrassing.
Allow me to mourn a few names, in particular:
Joseph Boyden. Your writing is brilliant and your work on behalf of your community is tireless and inspiring. I got to meet you last year and it was wonderful. I can no longer support you or your writing.
Elizabeth Hay. You have been one of my main writing inspirations for many years. I adore your work. I can no longer support you or your writing.
Michael Ondaatje. Good lord, this one really hurts. Your poetry has gotten me through some dark times. I can no longer support you or your writing.
Lorna Crozier. Again, a major inspiration to me for years now. I've heard you speak many times and I've always been moved and inspired. I can no longer support you or your writing.
Lisa Moore. "February" is one of the most beautiful works of fiction I've ever read. I can no longer support you or your writing.
Yann Martel. I can't believe someone with vision such as yours would sign your name to this bullshit. I can no longer support you or your writing.
MARGARET ATWOOD. Margaret Atwood. I read "The Edible Woman" when I was eleven and I've never looked back. I have read every single one of your books. When you publicly supported a friend's financial campaign to help write her book on sexual assault a few years back, I felt strengthened in my love for you, knowing you stood with survivors, too. I have a fucking signed copy of "The Robber Bride." My heart aches. I can no longer support you or your writing.
Miriam Toews. This one hurts so much, too. You're a visionary of Canadian fiction. I can no longer support you or your writing.
Lee Henderson. You were one of my first teachers, and one of the best teachers of the craft of fiction I ever had. I can no longer support you or your writing.
John K. Samson. Fuck. How many times have I cried my eyes out listening to your music? You have gotten me through some of the lowest lows of my entire life. I can no longer support you or your writing.
Let me be clear: every single person who signed this letter is a rape apologist. I stand with survivors of sexual assault, always, with zero exceptions. I believe accusers. I will gleefully burn all my bridges, and never look back.
Thank you to the brilliant Leah Horlick for inspiring this post.
EDIT: December 1st, 2016. It's worth noting that both John K. Samson and Miriam Toews have removed their names from the letter.